PRAIRIE DU CHIEN - Sometimes you want water on your property and sometimes you don’t—a lawsuit filed by Crossing Rivers Health against the Town of Bridgeport and nine other defendants is definitely about not wanting water on you property.
The Crossing Rivers Health, the hospital and clinics located along Highway 18 near Wal-Mart in the Town of Bridgeport, filed the lawsuit claiming what they refer to as ‘water trespass’ in Crawford County Circuit Court on February 21. The lawsuit alleges that a Town of Bridgeport road improvement project on Vineyard Road has made unusable 50 of the 105 acres owned by Crossing Rivers Health.
The suit claims upgrading a 30-inch tube that drained storm water from the north side of the road onto the south side of the road is the problem. The Crossing Rivers’ property is on the south side of Vineyard Road. As part of the road improvement project, the tube was replaced by a box culvert 16-feet long and four-feet high.
As a result of the of the constructed box culvert, water flow increased from 100 gallons per second to 6,657 gallons per second, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit complaint also explains that a berm in the north side ditch meant that once water backed up in the tube it would spill north over the berm and be contained on the property on the north side of Vineyard Road owned by Mike Steiner. Steiner is a Town of Bridgeport Supervisor.
Following completion of the project, all surface and storm water that previously flowed north onto Steiner’s property now flows south ‘trespassing’ onto the plaintiff’s property, according to Crossing Rivers.
Crossing Rivers gave notice of its claim and petition of relief at the Town of Bridgeport meeting on June 13, 2018.
The Town of Bridgeport Board met in a closed session at an October meeting with their hired MSA consultants to discuss the matter. When the board returned to open session, they moved to comply with the town’s obligation to abate and remediate the water damage. The motion passed with Bridgeport Town Supervisor Mike Steiner abstaining.
To date, the Town of Bridgeport has not moved to remediate and has not corrected the situation, according to the lawsuit.
In addition to the Town of Bridgeport, the Crossing Rivers lawsuit names nine other defendants. Those defendants include John Karnopp, Bridgeport Town Chairperson; Michael Steiner, a Town of Bridgeport Supervisor and the owner of property adjoining the Crossing Rivers’ property; Alan Flansburgh, a Town of Bridgeport Supervisor; Crawford County; the Crawford County Highway Department; Dennis Pelock, the Crawford County Highway Commissioner; Travis J. Kramer owner of Kramer Consulting Group–a Wauzeka-based surveying company, TEAM Engineering, a Loganville-based engineering firm; and H. James and Sons, a Fennimore-based road construction firm.
Crossing Rivers CEO Bill Sexton explained that looking at the costly remediation that may be necessary to correct the water trespass situation, it was decided that all affected parties should be named in the lawsuit to help share in the expense of the remediation.
Sexton said the hospital was interested in collaborating with all parties involved to find a resolution to the water problem.
“We’re not interested in anything other than getting the water off the property,” Sexton.
The lawsuit called the 50 acres of the property now subject to flooding a breeding ground for waterfowl, vermin, algae and mosquitos.
Sexton indicated he was unsure what would happen with the lawsuit going forward. He noted the defendants had 45 days after being notified of the suit to make a response.
“A lot depends on their response,” the CEO noted. “We’re optimistic that we can rectify this by working together. It’s a lot of acreage that we can no longer use to our benefit.”
Crossing Rivers is a health care facility that serves four counties. The plans are to develop a health care campus on the 105-acre site that would include more buildings and other facilities in the future.
Sexton noted that in addition to the Steiner property, a subdivision located to the north of the Crossing Rivers’ property is also now draining on to the hospital’s property.
“What we’d really like to do is get the water off of our property,” Sexton said.
Sasha Dull, Crossing Rivers Chief Development Officer and External Relations Coordinator, was quick to add that Crossing Rivers did not want a solution to the water on their property to adversely affect other property owners.
“We need a co-operative effort,” Dull said.
Of the defendants contacted none chose to comment on the situation and others declined to return phone messages left seeking comment on the situation.